36th EGOS Colloquium
Organizing for a Sustainable Future:
Responsibility, Renewal & Resistance
University of Hamburg
July 2–4, 2020
36th EGOS Colloquium
July 2–4, 2020
Many would agree that organizations have become a central institution of contemporary societies: we work in organizations
and consume their products and services and our daily lives are affected, directly or indirectly, by the decisions they make
(Mumby, 2013a). Critical scholars in the fields of organizational discourse and communication studies have at length examined
how organizations shape our identities and experiences in the workplace and beyond. These works have highlighted the pervasiveness
of corporate and managerial discourses (for instance, promoting ideas of efficiency, performance and individualism) and their
impact on our definition of self, work and democracy (e.g. Deetz, 1992). Studies have also pointed at the development of (new)
technologies of control based in neoliberal-managerial values such as freedom, individualism and entrepreneurship (Fleming,
2019), and the efforts of individual and collective identity construction through the embodiment (and sometimes resistance)
of work-related discourses of subjectivation (e.g. Ashcraft, 2013; Kärreman, 201). Scholars have additionally explored the
relation between power and authority, and the ways they are accomplished through meaning negotiation (Porter et al., 2017).
In these studies, the focus is less on organizations per se and more on the discursive organizing of people, things, goods, values, identities and societies. Along the lines of Foucault’s (1972) notion of discourse – defined as a contingent social system that produces and legitimates (certain) knowledge and meaning – this shift of focus echoes what Carlone and Taylor (1998) called the “organizing of culture”, and more recently, what Mumby (2013b) coined as the “communicative politics of organizing” (see also Kärreman, 2010). Both expressions put on the front stage a communication-centered explanation of how power is organized in society. Such a communicative perspective allows us to explore, for example, the organizing of the meaning and value systems through which we make sense of our world (e.g. Dempsey & Sanders, 2010; Kärreman & Alvesson, 2010), the “work of communication” in organizing work practices and economies under contemporary capitalism (Kuhn et al., 2017), the communicative organizing of the production-consumption relations that characterize our contemporary societies and notions of self (Mumby, 2013b) or the alternative organizing of resistance in social political movements (Parker et al., 2014).
This sub-theme, sponsored by the Standing Working Group (SWG) 05 on “Organization as Communication”, wishes to pursue this discussion around the critical, transformative and emancipatory role of communication. While constitutive explanations of power and discourse are not new (e.g. Deetz & Mumby, 1990; Hardy & Phillips, 2004), we believe explicit discussion of the political implications of a discursive/communicative understanding of the organization–society relationship, as well as of the very constitution of organizations, is more than ever needed. We live an era of constant crisis (economic, environmental, political, ideological) that comes with great challenges for our societies and that, we believe, are better understood – and possibly addressed from a genuinely communicative standpoint. The argument that communication does not only serve representational purposes but that, instead, it is constitutive of reality is today well documented (e.g. Cooren et al., 2011).
Moreover, there is an increasing consensus that a shift has occurred in our collective system of value, mostly attributable to the neoliberal economic model that pervades our relations to others (Dean, 2005; Mumby, 2016). This places questions of communication, power and politics at the center, as they are intimately tied to struggles over meaning. Communication creates the very possibility for power to be exercised: studying how this works enables us to foresee alternative and more responsible forms of organizing our societies.
We invite papers that address the particular focus of the sub-theme or that are concerned with the constitutive and formative relations between communication and organizing more generally. Below is a list of indicative, but not exhaustive, topics and questions related to the sub-theme:
How can critical approaches, theories and concepts contribute to unpacking the constitutive and transformative role of communication?
How can power and authority be studied from a communicative standpoint?
What is the political function of communication for organization and more broadly in organizing our world?
How can communication transform organization and society?
How does the idea that communication is constitutive of organizations change the way we may address issues of power and authority in organizations?
To what extent is power integral to the organization–communication relationship?